Orthodox Jews practice civil disobedience and fight for their survival in the Hills of Judea.
For probably thousands of years the sunrise was pretty much the only thing to shine on most of these barren hills. In recent decades the Jewish presence here has watched government after government spin their tires in the mud and the blood of what is called the peace process. In the past 10 years it has become abundantly clear that the Palestinian Authority with the support of the European Union intends to illegally and utilitarily develop the West bank area with intentions to eventually declare independence. The Jewish residents have watched the neighboring Arab community's rapid expansion with what they feel is little to no government response. A group of residents got together to attempt what Arabs and Bedouins seemed to be getting a free pass on - making a new community on an empty hilltop in area C without permission. This is a story that can't be written in 280 characters and can't be captured on paper or a headline. So we ventured out to try to encapsulate the night of the founding of this new community Derech Emuna. This is their story.
Derech Emunah chronicles the early morning ascentby approximately 50 - 100 men on Aug. 15, 2022 to build a new village on a hill in Judea deep in the Gush Etzion block near Metzad, Malei Amos and Pnei Kedem. The leadership denies any connection to political rumblings and this historical move in Area C was made without asking permission from the Israeli government. Derech Emunah comes in the wake of Israeli politicians' recent legalization of decades of illegal Arab construction throughout the West Bank of the Jordan River.
Many residents throughout Israel are fed up trying to simply survive with the skyrocketing cost of living, housing shortages throughout the country, and the real estate industry seamingly only knowing how to build tall buildings. Yet this group maintains their ideals and explains their true motivation for ascending the hill strictly as being spiritually motivated in an effort to bring more of the Divine Presence of HaShem in the world. Their love for the land and deep want to bring more of G-d's presence into the world is the driving force. One leader explained that what good is politics if it compromises one's value system.
Some residents expressed frustration that the Arab neighbors are literally spreading out from hilltop to hilltop with what feels to them like zero response from the government and many are in fact seeing this a mortal counteraction to the illegal construction and poaching of Area C by Arab's who seem to get a free pass from the Army and government. Some even claimed that in addition to the European Union and the Palestinian Authority, it is the government who seems to be making sure no Jews get in the way of the Fayaad Plan by the Palestinian Authority to unilaterally declare independence from Israel in the not so far off future. Such a move would undoubtedly lead to unthinkable bloodshed and leave more than a million Jews east of the Green Line with compromised safety, housing and livelihood.
The evening took about three months of planning and the actual ascent and construction began after midnight with finishing touches enabling sunrise minyan overlooking the uniquely beautiful skyscapes from what felt like one of the tallest hilltops in the area.
The group clearly understood that the Israeli army would remove them in the coming days or weeks or months but they remain resolved to continuously return until their plea is heard and their new town is accepted. In fact, approximately 11 families moved in and were living their only to be evicted about 48 hours later by the army. The residents practiced civil disobedience and did not resort to violence. For the most part the removal was not violent but at times some soldiers were seen physically assaulting the residents and carrying them off the hilltop.
On Sunday Aug. 21, 2022 the community is holding a Torah class and kumzits which they say was coordinated with the Israeli Army. Currently the plans to return to the hilltop are unknown but from the sounds of things on Day 1 of Derech Emunah, the second attempt is not too far on the horizon.
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